Category: Sociology of Health & Illness

The Sociology of Medical Guidelines

Allen Frances, M.D, is an American psychiatrist who chaired the DSM-IV taskforce, and later criticized the DSM-5 and American psychiatry for their roles in manufacturing mental illnesses and the epidemic of overdiagnosis. In this blog post he makes a well-founded plea for sociologic contributions to medicine. Before the Flexner report in 1909, medical education and practice in America were chaotic and of low quality. After the report, both were quickly and dramatically reformed in ways that seemed completely wonderful at...

‘If there were doctors who could understand our problems, I would already be better’: dissatisfactory health care and marginalisation in superdiverse neighbourhoods

In the 2007 film, originally entitled ‘Allotment’, the inimitable Omid Djalili plays a refugee doctor called Ali who consults in his allotment shed. Ali reviews the numerous medications taken by allotmenteer Charlie (played by John Henshaw). Ali indicates one packet of pills: ‘This one here is for women problems! Do you have women problems?’ Charlie looks annoyed, puzzled and then embarrassed. Why is Charlie taking drugs for a gynecological condition? Given Charlie’s dislike of visiting the health centre, his wife...

Money, markets and trade caused coronavirus pandemic

In recent weeks, the microscopic bundle of genes and proteins that comprises the Covid-19 coronavirus has been ascribed almost miraculous powers to infect huge and growing numbers of human bodies.  The media coverage of the outbreak  has ensured that few are unaware of the respiratory tract symptoms that the infection produces: symptoms that – in the case of the most vulnerable – can kill. However, this account has largely sidelined the social, economic and political environment that has contributed to...

The lack of common sense in disorder thinking

Disorder thinking has been popular and dominant in recent decennia, with a rising number of behaviors and emotions being medicalized into a psychiatric disease. More people today than ever before in history are being diagnosed and treated for ever lighter quirks, drawing professional attention away from those who need treatment most. One recent example of medicalizing a problem that someone might have is Misophonia. Misophonia In 2013, a research group led by the Chair of the Dutch Psychiatry Association introduced...

‘Women of my age tend to drink’: Understanding how older Australian and Danish women negotiate the pleasures and risks of their alcohol use

When we think of risky drinking, typically we think of young people ‘binge drinking’, passing out on the footpath and generally looking a bit ‘messy’. The media reinforces the notion that drinking is primarily a problem among young people by regularly circulating stories and images of young people being drunk in public and causing problems either to themselves or bystanders. This emphasis on young people’s drinking is not surprising, particularly since they are more likely to drink in public places,...

“If it’s not on Strava it doesn’t matter”. The collective shaping of running via self-tracking social interactions

“If it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen”, I have often been told as I explain my research to runners and cyclists familiar with the social fitness platform. Self-tracking has become an everyday activity, and not just for athletes (and ‘wannabe’ athletes). Wearable devices for self-tracking of sleep, food intake, physical activity and even sex are readily available, and smart phones gather data on steps, heart rate and sleep without you even knowing. The ethics and power issues associated with...

ADHD and brain anatomy: First do no harm!

ADHD is kind of like a cancer disease but you’re not going to die from it Sylvia, US, on medication, age 11 This quote originates from Ilina Singh’s groundbreaking VOICES study that interviews children about ADHD and medication. Sylvia’s account of ADHD is one of a physical and serious disease like cancer -although not lethal. However, ADHD is not a disease like cancer, but a concept from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), currently in its fifth...

Ethnicity in Dementia Research: Are Social Scientists Complicit in Neuropsychiatric Imperialism?

During the early-21st century, social dementia research has experienced something of an ethnic turn. This trajectory is rooted in 1990s psychosocial accounts of dementia that newly championed the perspectives of people with dementia, and the subsequent realisation that these early perspectives were rather white. In response, researchers have increasingly sought to access the dementias of minority ethnicity groups living in high-income countries. Unfortunately, rather than meaningfully engaging with a greater diversity of dementias, much of this movement toward minority ethnicity...

Pregnancy and childbirth in prison

“I’ve got baggy tops, so I just always have to hide my bump, and like most people couldn’t recognise that I’m pregnant, so that’s a good thing”. With a prison population of approximately 9000 women in England, it is estimated that approximately 600 pregnancies and 100 births occur annually.  Despite there being an extensive literature on the sociology of reproduction, pregnancy and childbirth, there has been scarce qualitative research looking specifically at pregnant prisoners. Our recently published open access paper:...

Vaccine frictions – one rationality does not fit all

This blog piece highlights some points of my on-going multi-sited research project on HPV vaccination in Finland. The findings presented are based on my open access research article, What kind of ‘a girls’ thing’?, published in Sociology of Health and Illness. When you are vaccinated, you get protection against the cancer‐causing HP virus. On the front page of the Finnish HPV vaccination campaign site. That vaccine protects from papillomavirus (not directly even from cervical cancer), which is very effectively prevented...

The impact of care farms on quality of life, depression and anxiety among different population groups: A systematic review

This is a plain language summary for a new Systematic Review published in Campbell Systematic Reviews, aimed at understanding the impact of care farming on quality of life, depression and anxiety, on a range of service user groups. Care farming is the therapeutic use of agricultural and farming practices. People value the farms, but the evidence on their effectiveness is limited. What is this review about? Care farming (also called social farming) is the therapeutic use of agricultural and farming...

Against false dichotomies in the politics and ethics of big data exploitations in public healthcare

Care.data was so short-lived. Announced in 2013 and scrapped 3 years later, it was never actually given the chance to serve its purposes and prove how it differed from other ‘revolutionary’ state health data research services. However, someone has only to read the transcripts of the special Health Committee to understand the confusion of the public, healthcare professionals and state institutions in England around this big data programme: how achievable it was, who could deliver it, to whose benefit or...

Digital Health: Sociological Perspectives

Digital technologies are increasingly being developed, implemented and used in the delivery of health and care, contributing to potentially disruptive changes in how healthcare is practised and experienced by health professionals, patients and those within their wider care networks. The following extract is from the introduction to a new special issue of Sociology of Health and Illness, edited by Flis Henwood and Benjamin Marent, now free to access until the end of 2019: ‘Digital health’ is both easy and hard...

Sociology Of Health & Illness New Writer’s Prize 2019

2019 Prize Winner The Editorial Board would like to offer their congratulations to Jane S. VanHeuvelen, University of Illinois, Chicago, USA, who is the winner of the Sociology of Health & Illness 2019 Mildred Blaxter New Writer’s Prize. The winning article ‘Isolation or interaction: healthcare provider experience of design change‘ is available to read here. In her article, VanHeuvelen explores how changes in the design of healthcare facilities are experienced by providers. Employing an inhabited institutionalist theoretical framework, and drawing on ethnographic and...

Transforming Despair into Hope

It is a feature of qualitative research that behind every published paper is a pile of data, fieldnotes, and ideas that never make it into the finished text.  Nevertheless, many of these ideas and observations, culled along the way, will have played an important role in shaping the final analysis.  It is some of these thoughts and observations, not formally presented in this paper and its companion piece – Towards a new perspective on deliberate self-harm in an area of...

Update: Us too! Why it’s time to give female death by suicide some serious sociological attention!

It is almost a year since I wrote this original blog post, linking to my research paper, An exploration of integrated data on the social dynamics of suicide among women, published in Sociology of Health & Illness. Statistics published since then show that as the overall suicide rate in the UK continues to show a downward trend, the rate of suicide among young girls aged 15-19, grew to its highest rate since records began in 1981 (Mohdin, 2018).  The National...